The ability to deliver an impeccable customer experience is a key contributor to success or failure in the restaurant industry. To survive in today’s cutthroat environment, it is vital for restaurateurs to understand consumer preferences and adapt accordingly. Modern consumers are no longer hyper-focused on the food itself. Instead, patrons want to experience a unique, memorable and authentic culinary adventure. The foodie culture is a global movement that has had a direct impact on the restaurant industry. To satisfy the ultra-sophisticated “foodies”, restaurant proprietors need to cater to their desires.
The following 7 strategies will help serve up a truly delectable customer experience that will have customers coming back for more.
Tell your Brand’s Story
Brand storytelling is an essential component for today’s consumers. Clients want more than good food, they also want a good story. That’s why it’s imperative for restaurateurs to humanize their business. A well-crafted story is important for solidifying consumer loyalty and engagement. A successful brand story is one that details a restaurant’s origin, challenges and values in a compelling manner—one that incites an emotional reaction.
The best brands are built on great stories that are made easily visible and accessible through an establishment’s website, social media platforms, blogs (both internal and external), and industry publications. Creating the right narrative is an indispensable part of any marketing campaign, helping to spread the message in an effective way, and thus fulfill consumers’ needs for connection and authenticity.
Empower your Staff
Satisfactory customer service isn’t difficult to provide, but it takes hard work and planning to deliver a remarkable service that produces a lasting impression. To achieve a high level of service, it’s important to carefully train staff members, giving them the tools to become knowledgeable communicators who can easily build connections with customers.
To begin, restaurateurs should hire staff that project hospitable traits such friendliness, empathy and awareness. The team should also be empowered to solve their own problems, should the need arise. Forcing them to seek a manager’s advice and approval for every single issue will only aggravate consumers further. If staff members can resolve problems without going to their higher-ups, clients will experience a greater level of respect and satisfaction. Bottom line: The staff ambiance is just as important—if not more—than visual aesthetics, so each member’s natural charm and enthusiasm should be nurtured and allowed to flourish. Doing this will create a lively and contagious vibe that consumers will find endearing.
Personalized, not Customized
Exceptional customer experience can be provided through impeccable hospitality and an atmosphere that makes a guest feel genuinely welcome. Restaurateurs and staff who make the effort to get to know their guests on a one-to-one level help create a personalized experience that makes them feel valued and appreciated. Greeting guests with a smile, addressing them by name or remembering their menu favourites are all details that will help compound loyalty.
Data collection is another way in which the personalization factor is being streamlined, allowing establishment owners to keep track of dietary restrictions, special occasions, allergies or general preferences. In its simplest form, this type of personalization can be collected through emails that are provided for digital receipt purposes, or by taking note of personal preferences and dining history. Personalization greatly enhances the dining experience, adding a touch of exclusivity that forms deep, human connections that often surpass the importance of the food itself.
Technological tools are an asset on both the front and backend of any restaurant’s operations. Today, technology is considered an integral part of the experience thanks to its ability to streamline and improve a wide variety of services such as booking reservations, eliminating errors, reducing lineups, processing payments and takeaway orders. App-based checkout and drone delivery are also essential technological advances that are helping to perfect the dining experience. Furthermore, delivery platforms such as JustEat, Uber Eats and GrubHub allow customers to place digital orders in a fast and convenient manner. Today’s restaurant clientele is becoming increasingly tech-savvy, which is why restaurateurs should take advantage of technology’s capacity to positively impact consumer loyalty and dining frequency.
Food as Theatre
Modern consumers yearn for a dining experience that uses theatre and artistry to arouse the senses. An open kitchen that displays visually-appealing dishes, for instance, helps stimulate customers’ senses while also supplying a shareable opportunity—thus feeding into the desirable food-as-theatre concept.
Adding visual and auditory enhancements, such as gold leaves, edible flowers and cocktail pop rocks, to menu options can also be used to wow customers, which encourages them to produce user-generated content on social media. Here, a chef’s creativity and inspiration are the key to creating that all-important wow factor that incites consumer engagement.
Defining a Sense of Place
In the restaurant industry, space is everything. To rise above the competition, restaurateurs should use their space wisely. From fast food to fine dining, it is crucial to create an ambiance that transports customers. Whether it be through an iconic design or a sensational mural, or highlighting an establishment’s unique, historical location, proprietors should develop an aesthetic concept that satisfies consumers’ needs for adventure. To be successful, this destination experience should be authentic and cohesive, offering an immersive and exceptional experience. Concepts that appear fake or are executed in a rushed, half hazard manner will only confuse and frustrate clients.
Meatless Goes Mainstream
Modern diners are conscious about their health and the impact their food choices have on the environment. As a result, meatless dining has gone mainstream. Veganism has propelled itself to a global level with an ever-expanding demographic.
The evolution of plant-based products has expanded and evolved in such a way that everyone—including meat eaters—is seeking to reduce their meat consumption. The use of fresh, natural ingredients that are sourced, grown and processed in a healthy and ethical manner is now highly valued. Consequently, customers are happy to spend more money on locally-sourced or in-house specialty ingredients that are both fresh and healthy.
Trends in customer experience are undergoing a monumental shift. Restaurateurs who want to differentiate themselves from the competition need to stay abreast of consumers’ ever-evolving needs and desires. Traditionally, an unforgettable consumer experience was achieved by offering cleanliness, good food and great prices. This model is long gone. Now, to thrive in the industry, proprietors need to connect with guests on a deeper level and cater to their needs by crafting a unique brand story, creating an appealing space with theatrical dishes, using technological advancements, and employing friendly staff members that dazzle.